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Culinary Adventure in Luján, Argentina

When Pablo told me to go to Luján with him, I was not excited – and sadly mistaken. I expected a desiccated religious tour, not a culinary adventure into the heart of Argentine cuisine. My guide told to wear something warm. It was July and cold on the pampas.

The drive from Ramos Mejia, a commuter city bordering Buenos Aires, was roughly an hour and a half. We passed a state hospital, which Pablo explained was set up in the Peron era to service the poor. Closer to Lujan, I spotted the cathedral sticking out like a mast above the plains. Pablo informed me that every year people from as far as Buenos Aires make a pilgrimage to Lujan by foot.

Pablo parked and we walked to plaza, where people were meandering and vendors were hawking food and trinkets. We went inside the Basilica, which was like so many other cathedrals I’ve been to – hard rock, sculptures and wooden pews.

After touring the Basilica and the surrounding area, we were peckish. Pablo asked a local who directed us to a nondescript restaurant with an outdoor grill. I didn’t know it, but I was going to have my first experience with Argentine asado. We were informed that for about $10 we could have as much as we wanted – so long as it came from an animal.

We split a bottle of Quilmes, the national brew, costing about $2 a liter, and munched on bread. The waiter brought a pan filled with grilled meats. There was flank steak, tripe, kidneys, chorizo, morcilla, chicken, along with other cuts of beef in the pan. I took a bite of steak and chorizo. They were oily and good.

However, the star of the show was the morcilla. Black blood sausage may not sound appetizing, but after sticking my fork in the tube, and then scooping out its oozing satin filling, my mouth became filled with pure joy. It tasted like warm pâté. My mouth still salivates. Sausage will never be the same.

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When Pablo told me to go to Luján with him, I was not excited – and sadly mistaken. I expected a desiccated religious tour, not a culinary adventure into the heart of Argentine cuisine. My guide told to wear something warm. It was July and cold on the pampas.

The drive from Ramos Mejia, a commuter city bordering Buenos Aires, was roughly an hour and a half. We passed a state hospital, which Pablo explained was set up in the Peron era to service the poor. Closer to Lujan, I spotted the cathedral sticking out like a mast above the plains. Pablo informed me that every year people from as far as Buenos Aires make a pilgrimage to Lujan by foot.

Pablo parked and we walked to plaza, where people were meandering and vendors were hawking food and trinkets. We went inside the Basilica, which was like so many other cathedrals I’ve been to – hard rock, sculptures and wooden pews.

After touring the Basilica and the surrounding area, we were peckish. Pablo asked a local who directed us to a nondescript restaurant with an outdoor grill. I didn’t know it, but I was going to have my first experience with Argentine asado. We were informed that for about $10 we could have as much as we wanted – so long as it came from an animal.

We split a bottle of Quilmes, the national brew, costing about $2 a liter, and munched on bread. The waiter brought a pan filled with grilled meats. There was flank steak, tripe, kidneys, chorizo, morcilla, chicken, along with other cuts of beef in the pan. I took a bite of steak and chorizo. They were oily and good.

However, the star of the show was the morcilla. Black blood sausage may not sound appetizing, but after sticking my fork in the tube, and then scooping out its oozing satin filling, my mouth became filled with pure joy. It tasted like warm pâté. My mouth still salivates. Sausage will never be the same.

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